Chapter Nine: Choices

1889 Words
The scene at the Desrouleaux household when Lydia and Harmon made their way in through the back door, hoping that it would allow them to enter without being noticed, was one of abject chaos. Instead of sneaking in unnoticed, they were immediately spotted by one of Harmon’s little brothers - who had been trying to pilfer a cookie from the kitchens while the cook was being distracted by another of the mischievous little Echo clones. There was a lot of shouting and general excitement coming from down the hall. The new friends froze, as did young Arian, whose hand was already digging around in the large ceramic vessel. He’d pulled a stool over, and was teetering precariously on his toes, the cookie jar tilted toward him. Harmon put his hands up, as if he was the one about to get caught out. “Arian…” Harmon said warningly. The eldest Desrouleaux brother’s warning did not land as intended. Arian only grinned, pulled his grubby little hands free from the jar with several cookies gripped in his sticky fingers. Then, he disappeared, and although she couldn’t see him, Lydia could hear him landing on the floor and giggling as he ran off with his ill gotten sweets. “Ariiiii, you better not be up to-” Cadence said as she burst into the kitchen. Then, when she caught sight of Harmon and Lydia, she shouted at them instead, “YOU TWO! Just where have you been?! We have been looking for you all day! Young lady, don’t you know how worried your family is?” Harmon and Lydia both flinched in the face of Cadence’s maternal outrage, which only continued as she zeroed in on her son, “And you, you knew full well that you were supposed to bring her straight to me. How is it that I have four sons and not one of you has learned to mind me!” Harmon actually backed up a step as his mother drew near. Cadence was a full foot shorter than her eldest son, but the fear in Harmon’s eyes said everything. He swallowed a little, mumbling an apology that only made Cadence snort and roll her eyes, before turning her piercing gaze on Lydia. “At least tell me he didn’t say anything intentionally insulting while he was with you?” Cadence asked, looking Lydia over with an approving expression. At least someone around here appreciated her sense of style. “He was a perfect gentleman.” Lydia replied, surprised at the slightly defensive tone in her own voice.  Cadence laughed at that, and shook her head. “Oh, I doubt that. But, thank you for feeding me a lovely line. That does make me feel like less of a failure as a mother.” “I...I wasn’t just feeding you a line. Harmon was a great friend to me today. He saw how uncomfortable I was and offered to take me shopping for new clothes.” Lydia said, pinching at the cloth of her sweater dress for emphasis. “If Harmon is an indication of your parenting skills, I’m sure your other boys will turn out just fine.” Lydia didn’t notice the way Harmon’s eye twitched when she used the word ‘friend,’ but he could tell that his mother had caught the tell. The woman had eyes as sharp as the blades of her daggers, and she never missed a thing. Cadence glanced at her son, lips turning up briefly at the corners, before turning back to Lydia and inclining her head. “I’ll take the compliment then. Thank you, Lydia. It’s nice to hear good things about my children.” Cadence said, as she took Lydia’s arm. “Now you must come along with me. Your mother has been haranguing your poor Uncle Echo for the last several hours.” Harmon could hear Lydia’s mother well before they reached the drawing room where they kept their magic mirrors. His long, sensitive pointed ears gave him a natural advantage over humans like Dia, who grimaced when she finally did pick up her mother’s voice. “You realize that Lydia is not my child, right? She’s YOUR daughter, and now she’s an adult who is fully capable of making her own choices.” Echo said tartly, clearly having lost his patience. “Shouting at me when you’re the ones who drove her two are so suffocating, no wonder she left like she did.” “Oh, f**k you Echo.” Astredian growled. “Tre, please...Echo, maybe we should just hang up now before we say anything else we don’t mean.” Elise sounded exhausted, her voice hoarse. “No, Elise. This needs to be said. ” Astredian hissed. “We could have left you for dead all those years ago when you turned up at our town gates, but we didn’t. Our daughter came to you because she trusts you, because we trust you, and you managed to lose her almost immediately! How many years have you spent reminding us, ever so subtly, that YOU are the clever one! The freakin’ know it all, mastermind-” “I’m not lost.” Lydia said grimly as she emerged into view of the magic mirror. “And Uncle Echo wasn’t wrong when he said that I am an adult. A young adult, yeah, but I’m not a child anymore.” She put a hand on her Uncle’s shoulder, giving him a cold shake of the head that caused him to look mildly ashamed. Her chilly expression told him that even if what Echo had said was true about Lydia’s parents being suffocating, the cruelty of his words was not lost on her. When Echo turned and saw that his son and wife were watching his little display of ill temper, his shoulders actually slumped. Harmon had never seen his father look so chastised before. “I apologize.” Echo said softly, but still loud enough for the Ellie and Astredian to hear through the mirror. “I was being harsh. I know how I would feel if one of my children took off...” Ellie smiled a little, but Astredian merely snorted and averted his gaze. They could both be petty at times. “Hi Mom, Dad.” Lydia said, moving in close to the mirror so that she could put a hand against the cool glass. “Dia…” Elise said, her voice cracking a little as she reached up to place her own hand against her daughter’s. “I’m so sorry, love…Killian...the wedding.” “I’m not.” Lydia said quietly. “Well, I am...but only because I didn’t talk to you first.  Is it stupid that I was afraid to call you? I didn’t want you to be disappointed in me, again…” “We’re not disappointed.” Astredian said, looking a little shocked. He glanced to his wife, then back to Lydia. “Lydia, we’re not disappointed in you.” “We’re disappointed in Killian, of course...but young lady, we are so proud of you.” Elise said, smiling gently, her green eyes sparkling with tears. “All we want is for you to chase your happiness, whatever that might be.” Dia groaned internally; this is exactly what she hated about her parents. They were so freakin’ good, and so earnest. Why couldn’t they just admit that sometimes they were pissed at her, especially when she deserved it? They couldn’t honestly be proud of her for bailing on the wedding event of the season with nothing more than a rude gesture and a crude flow of harsh insults, could they? Not to mention the fact that she’d run halfway around the world after stealing a motorcycle... “Do you want us to come get you?” Astredian asked after a momentary pause. “Killian’s left the city in disgrace. I don’t think you’ll have to worry about running into him for a long while.” Lydia shook her head, “I want to stay here.” “You want to study at the Academy Esoterique, don’t you, love?” Elise asked, with a smile that said she already knew the answer. Dia returned her mother’s smile with a small one of her own. “Yeah…” “It’s fine with me as long as you don’t up and marry some Zircyn boy.” Astredian rumbled darkly. “Don’t let those suave bastards turn your head, Lydia.” “Astredian!” Elise smacked her husband’s shoulder, and Echo barked a laugh in the background. “I thought we were past this. The war ended more than twenty years ago.” “I don’t have a problem with Zircyns in general,” Astredian defended, though his tone was a touch contrite as he continued. “I just don’t want my daughter to get married and have grandbabies so far from home…” “I’m not going to jump into another relationship any time soon, much less a marriage.” Lydia said, sighing a little. What she didn’t say was that her parents probably didn’t need to worry about her having babies - ever. Although she and her mother never spoke about it openly, she could tell from the way that her mother’s eyes turned soft and sad at the mention of grandchildren, that they both knew there was a good chance that Lydia was sterile. Her condition didn’t exactly lend itself to fertility, but she’d never gotten up the guts to confirm whether or not her suspicions were correct. Cadence motioned to Echo and Harmon, who exited the room to give Dia some privacy. She spoke with her parents late into the evening, until they finally felt assured that their daughter was truly ok. Or, as ok as she could be given the circumstances. By the end of the conversation, Lydia still didn’t have everything figured out, but she still felt better somehow. Her father was warm and comforting, her mother firm and practical, and together they were...well, they were perfect. Or maybe not.  When Lydia mentioned that she was ashamed of how poor of a job she’d done managing her life in comparison to them, they laughed and began sharing stories of their worst f**k ups - stories she’d never heard before. Well, not exactly - her Uncle Pita loved telling tales on her father - but stories of her mother’s screw ups were mostly fresh news to her. “ weren’t actually trying to lure the dragon toward the city?” Lydia asked, her eyes wide with shock. “During the second desolation...that final was an accident?” “Yes. It was completely coincidental that the dragon took off after me...and honestly, I could have gotten us both killed. Er, killed again. Though, in my defense, I didn’t know I was pregnant at the time.” Elise said, shaking her head a bit morosely. “If I’d known, I would never have done what I did. Now you know, love. I’m not really a hero. None of us are. We’re all just people doing the best that we can, hoping the choices we make turn out more good than bad.” Lydia switched off the mirror a few minutes later after saying her goodbyes, her mind still echoing with her mother’s words.
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